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A magazine of forecasts, trends, and ideas about the future

January-February 2009 Vol. 43, No. 1


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Controlling Our Technologies—and Destinies

In the twentieth century, humans developed atomic energy and Big Macs, accelerated transportation systems and more-sedentary lifestyles. In the twenty-first century, our new inventions will likely bring new potential threats and opportunities, so managing the future successfully will require vigilance and control.

The development of machines that may one day end mass manufacturing is a case in point. In this issue, science professor Thomas A. Easton describes the economic impacts of the 3-D printing revolution. These devices will allow consumers to purchase designs rather than products. In this new economy, money will be made from licensing unique or customized designs and from sales of devices and the “inks” (building materials) to “print” with. Tomorrow’s consumers will thus be using information to fully control and create their material world. (See “The Design Economy: A Brave New World for Businesses and Consumers.")

Other technologies over which humans are clamoring to gain control include those that would prolong and enhance life, defer death, and perhaps enable resurrection or ensure immortality. The rise of the transhumanist movement, most notably in California, is described in witty detail by David Gelles. The human body and brain, with all their flaws and malfunctions, can be radically improved by good engineering, the transhumanists believe. (See “Immortality 2.0: An Inside Look at California's Transhumanist Movement”.)

The good news is that, where invention impacts ourselves (such as marketers’ ever more creative ways to fatten our bodies), humans have equal ability to solve problems we create. Sports and fitness marketing scholar John Sweeney and futurist Kenneth W. Harris examine key trends in health marketing and offer prescriptions for a fitter human future. (See Sweeney’s “Marketing a More-Healthful Future: A Moderate Revolution,” and Harris’s “Toward a Fitter Future: Why Education Must Get Physical”.)

—Cynthia G. Wagner
Managing Editor

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